Fire burns 40 acres near Halfway

By Jayson Jacoby July 01, 2013 09:50 am

By Jayson Jacoby

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A fire ignited by lighting Friday night burned about 40 acres of grass, brush and timber near Halfway.

Crews had the blaze contained by Sunday morning, said Willy Crippen, fire management officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s Burnt-Powder Fire Zone.

One firefighter who suffered from heat exhaustion was taken by ambulance to St. Alphonsus Health Center-Baker City, where he was treated and released, Crippen said.

Temperatures climbed into the upper 90s on Saturday afternoon as firefighters dug a control line around the fire, which was near the west fork of Dry Creek, about five miles north of Halfway.

A local resident reported the fire on Saturday morning.

Three Forest Service engine crews, along with the 20-member Union Hotshot crew and another 20-person crew, worked on the blaze.

The location was fortunate in that the Wallowa-Whitman had done a tree-thinning and prescribed burning project there a few years ago, Crippen said.

With more space between the remaining ponderosa pines and Douglas-firs, the flames mainly stayed on the ground, burning grass and brush rather than climbing into the tops of the trees, he said.

However, Crippen said the reduction in fire danger due to heavy rains in late June will dissipate quickly with 100-degree temperatures forecast today and Tuesday. Lightning is also possible each day this week. 

 

FEELING STICKY?  IT’S THE HUMIDITY

Baker County is quite a ways from the Mason-Dixon Line, but our weather the past couple days has had a decidedly Deep South, which is to say steamy, air.

Southerners would of course scoff, but by the typical standards of our arid climate this current heat wave is an unusually humid one.

The humidity at the Baker City Airport didn’t dip below 42 percent any of the past three days. Normally during heat waves the humidity ranges from 10 to 20 percent.

The culprit is the rain that fell Wednesday, soaking the ground and the air, said Ann Adams, an assistant forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Pendleton.

The wet weather was followed immediately by the massive high pressure ridge that’s responsible for record-setting temperatures across the West.

That ridge — basically, it means the air is sinking — in effect acts as a ceiling that traps the moist air near the ground, Adams said.

The unusually high humidity is not widespread.

In Burns, for instance, the humidity dipped to 17 percent on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Ontario, which has posted high temperatures of 103, 104 and 106 the past three days, registered afternoon humidities from 13 percent to 19 percent on those days.

Minor relief, both in temperatures and humidities, is likely in Baker County by Thursday, Adams said.